Jerusalem Now the horse trading begins.
As Ehud Olmert seeks to assemble a coalition government this week following his Kadima Party's poorer-than-expected victory of just 28 seats in Tuesday's election, he will not have the free hand he expected just a month ago when polls were showing Kadima winning 40 or more seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
The Israeli assault on a Palestinian jail in Jericho Tuesday to arrest the alleged mastermind of the 2001 assassination of an Israeli minister has increased the political standing of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just two weeks before elections, according to Israeli analysts.They also said the siege foiled Hamas' effort to portray itself as the liberator of Palestinian prisoners.
As Hamas and Fatah representatives met this week to discuss the possibility of Fatah joining a new Hamas-led government (one which analysts say is unlikely to be formed until at least May) the World Bank and the European Union stepped in to provide a total of $185 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
The World Bank Tuesday said its $42 million grant to the Palestinian Authority was designed to "avoid suspension of basic services to the Palestinian population."
In outlining their party's platform on future Palestinian relations, the leaders of Israel's three main political parties offered few differences this week as they resumed their campaigning following a three-week hiatus caused by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's crippling stroke.
As the family of Ariel Sharon played a recording of his grandson's voice in an effort to wake him from a coma, members of the Kadima Party he founded selected Ehud Olmert as his successor and polls showed Kadima with an ever widening lead.
"What seems important is that Kadima hasn't begun to deflate," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "If anything, the opposite is happening."